Cult to the Orishas
HAVANA (PL).—An attractive
exhibition on popular religious syncretism,
profoundly rooted in the Cuban population, is
displayed in the Guanabacoa Municipal Museum, to the
east of the capital.
Popularly known as the land of the
Babalaos (Santería priests), this locality,
founded in 1554, was an important settlement,
associated with the slave trade which began in the
Western Sub-Saharan Africa sustained
the island’s slave population with mostly young men
and women, as acknowledged by Cuban anthropologist
Miguel Barnet in a written comment on display at the
They came from Senegal, Sierra
Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroon,
Mali, Guinea, Benin and Nigeria, among other
countries, reads the text by Barnet, also president
of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC).
"In that forced emigration they
brought nothing but their memories, myths, songs,
dances and languages which, coming under the
influence of different African groups and the
dominant culture, gave rise to the so-called
expressions of African origin."
One reflection of this reality is
the permanent exhibition on the Regla de Ocha
or Santería, and the cult to Ifá, the
Reglas Congas, and Abakuá societies in
the institution’s ethnological salons.
Of the Museums seven salons, five
are dedicated to religious syncretism, museologist
Grisel Martínez informed Prensa Latina in an
Visitors can see what has aroused
the greatest interest, given its significance:
Regla de Ocha or Santería, the religion
brought by Africans from western Nigeria and fused
with the Catholicism imposed by the Spanish in that
period, Martínez noted.
This manifestation is known as
Catholic syncretism; in other words the resemblance
the Africans found between what are known as
Orishas and the Catholic saints, although
Santería does not have images, those who practice it
worship stones or objects, she explained.
ABAKUA SECRET SOCIETY
The cult of the Abakuá Secret
Society, exhibited in another salon, arrived from
southern Nigeria, from the former Calabar, and is a
mutual aid fraternity confined to men.
Belonging to the society means being
ruled by a code, which establishes that they must be
proven good sons, good parents, good brothers, but
above all, must defend the secret of their religion
to the death, if necessary, Martínez continued.
This cult is the only one
originating in Africa to have temples and worship
outside the home. Its only practice outside of the
African continent is in Cuba, specifically in
Matanzas province and in five Havana municipalities
(Regla, Marianao, San Miguel, Arroyo Naranjo and
REGLA CONGA OR PALO MONTE
This is the most primitive religion
of all, Bantu African in origin, developed by slaves
from the Congo and linked to nature and all its
elements, and uses an iron recipient, the Nganga.
Three branches of this cult are
practiced in Cuba: the Briyumba, Kimbisa
and Mayombe, the Museum’s information poster
notes, and its initiates receive the name of
palero or palera. Its highest leader is
Among options for the summer
vacation, those interested in Yoruba culture can
expand their knowledge on the original Guanabacoa
settlement or villa.
The capital municipality is included
in this year’s Rutas y Andares (Routes and
Walks) project organized by the Havana City
The visit begins at the Potosí
Hermitage and includes an Abakuá temple, the
workshop of visual artist Arturo Montoto, the
recently inaugurated Artists Casa and the Municipal
Museum, where visitors can watch a folkloric